April 3, 2018
In February Damien and I went away for the weekend. It was just one night at our friend's cabin in Maine. It was glorious. The following week I started writing about the experience - the skiing, the place, and our return home back to the city. Turns out there was a lot to process in that one trip (though we returned to the cabin throughout the winter) and my post about a weekend ski trip in Maine grew into a series of posts.
I've been writing my way through those ideas for most of March, which was why it was really quiet on the blog.
I'm ready to publish now and I'll do so in five segments, breaking up the ideas into (hopefully) digestible chunks, starting with my next post.
The one thing I want to mention before that series gets underway and takes up all the real estate here for a while is just how much I loved this winter and how happy I've been.
I've wanted to write for weeks about the experience of this winter, my best winter in many, many years (best winter in at least 10 years). But I've been working my way through this other series and knew if I took my eyes off that I could fall down this rabbit hole instead.
Several significant factors were a part of my increased wellbeing of this winter: Damien has a full-time job with regular paychecks and benefits. I'm pretty sure this is the biggest factor contributing to my wellbeing. I skied every week, downhill midweek with the kids and cross-country city skiing with Damien on the weekend. And we made regular trips out the city (you'll hear about that in my next posts). I stayed healthy, no significant colds or flu. The kids got sick this winter, not as bad as the really bad sick winter a few years ago, but worse than last year. But I didn't feel any emotional set-back by their sickness, which sometimes I can (like I've failed them somehow).
Most surprisingly the tasks of my part-time work and the effort of fitting this work into family life, writing, skiing, homeschool co-op, homemaking and home management energized me. I was completely unprepared for that.
Adding a part-time job to my life has not been easy in terms of time management. I had to be real clear on my priorities this winter and pretty disciplined with my time, but the overall energy exchange in this juggle has been a positive one.
from the days this winter when our dishwasher wasn't draining and we had to hand-wash the dishes
looks pretty but life is too busy to regularly hand-wash our dishes
When it comes to scheduling, I'm a time block person. I schedule my days and my weeks according to time blocks. This time block for work, this time block for grocery shopping, this time block for skiing, etc. I treat all these blocks the same in terms of what they require in time. This is comparable to imagining the day like an hourglass with x amount of sand at the top that drains out during the course of the day and gets replenished with each night's rest.
But it doesn't work that way, because the tasks associated with certain time blocks, and even the change between the blocks can energize me. And I don't just mean the easily recognized energizing activities like exercise, a quick nap, or eating well. Some work and or combination of work (work meaning all tasks we apply our hand, head, and heart to do) energizes me in a way that does not correspond to the time given.
It's not a straight 1 hour given, 1 hour of "work energy lost" equation.
I've known this intuitively on some level for many years because I've identified homemaking tasks that drain me and others that energize me. And I learned to scheduled these blocks accordingly, accounting for draining, energizing, and neutral activities.
But working for an enterprise outside the house (I still work at home) is a new experience, I didn't know what to expect.
In January when I looked at this winter's proposed schedule I wasn't sure how it would work. The schedule looked tight, almost unmanageable, would I crash and burn?
Nope. The opposite.
To be clear, my tight schedule includes rest and margin, which I guard quite jealously, this includes morning meditation, evening chill, eight hours sleep, and weekend Sabbath (you can read about that in this post).
from mom's visit in January
But somehow I added 15 hours of work into my weeks where I didn't think it was possible even 6 months ago. Yes, my family picks up a bit of the slack, but not much more than they were doing last fall.
What I learned this winter, very clearly, is that task management, making and keeping schedules, and getting work done is more nuanced and complicated (in a good way) than a straight up one hour of work = one hour "work energy lost" equation. This doesn't account for the "energizing" effect of certain tasks, which though they "cost" time add energy to your days.
I think this reality has been partly responsible for my improved wellbeing this winter.
the rug I made this winter
Which is not to say there weren't challenges in our lives this winter. It hasn't been a hunky-dory season for everyone in our family. And as a mother, to be in a good place while one of your kids is struggling feels unfair. And yet when my kids are going through struggles I'm deeply grateful that my emotional, mental, physical and spiritual wellbeing provides strength and support for the situation. So thank God for that, though I hate to see my children go through difficulties.
It's time to move on and publish that series of posts I've been writing all March.
That was winter, in a nutshell. Now let's talk about skiing, tension, security, irony and embodiment - oh yeah, all the fun stuff!
P.S. I don't take as many photos these days on my Sony NEX6 and I don't have the time I once did for editing and post-processing. I use my phone a lot, it's easier, though the results are not as beautiful. Photography has taken a back seat during this life season (it's been a slow decline for a couple years). This poses some blogging challenges, since my style has always been to incorporate beautiful images (of home, hearth, family, outdoors, travel), as a integral component into my writing. Not sure how this will play out in the future. For now you'll probably see more phone photography in my posts.
P.P.S Although things were quiet on the blog this winter, I wrote two weekend emails to my email blog subscribers with winter stories. Snow in the City & Let the Games Begin.
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Michelle on April 3, 2018, 2:13 p.m.
My but you are a thinker Renee. It makes me think that I don't think enough about things. :) I am so glad you had a great winter as I know it has been a struggle for you in the past. Obviously you are looking after yourself well! That's great.
Karen Toews on April 3, 2018, 2:31 p.m.
Really appreciate your thoughts on the energy equation, timely help as I figure out my time blocking 'system' . thanks - and your phone photography looks awesome xo Mom
Renee on April 3, 2018, 2:38 p.m.
Michelle, Yep, I am a thinker and although I haven't disliked this part of myself in the past, I haven't always indulged and gone as deep as I would have liked (since graduated from uni), because of many things: the energy required to raise young children, applying my "thinking skills" to other topics/subjects like homemaking and homeschooling, etc. I feel more freedom now in life to own this part of the myself, to celebrate it, to enjoy it, to dive deep into exploring it. And to not worry if it seems too esoteric, though my ultimate goal as a thinking-writer is to bring philosophy out of the esoteric and into the every day life experiences.
I'm about to add "spiritual thinker" to my homepage: spiritual thinker, wholehearted memoirist and lifestyle writer because this definitely where I'm swimming and how I define myself as a writer, and oh, it's so much fun!! (even though I feel a bit insecure about it at times because I don't have as much formal education/training in philosophy, psychology, and theology as I would like).
I "think" everyone is different and some of us think deeper about things, which isn't better or worse. Other people experience situations more intuitively than I do, or have more natural compassion or empathy, or have more freedom in some area (less angst in general maybe?) etc, because they don't tend to go deep with their thoughts. It's all ok :)
Thanks for commenting and reading.